Saturday, December 3, 2011

Abandon All Hope

Eight or so centuries ago Dante reported seeing the following inscription on the gates to Hell: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

In 2008 America bought a vision of hope. Of course, hope is not a policy; it’s an attitude. You might say that it’s a positive attitude. You might also say that it’s wishful thinking.

If hope is all you have, you don’t really have very much. When hope does not produce results, it transforms into its opposite, despair.

Hope alone is not the cure for despair; it is a ploy leading you into it.

Despair is the more philosophical term for what the psychiatrists and psychologists call depression.

When you are in hope mode, you are anxiously waiting for something good to happen. Despair arrives when you stop hoping and resign yourself to the bad.

If you weren’t doing anything to actualize your positive vision your wishful thinking can easily become a do-nothing despair.

Beneath the surface of yesterday’s apparently positive jobs report was the fact that over 300,000 Americans have given up looking for a job.

The economy created a substandard 120,000 jobs, but since 300,000 people stopped looking, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.6%. The president claimed that his economic policies were working.

Numbers tell some of the story. They do not tell the entire story. They do not tell us how good these new jobs are. Or how good the new jobs created under the Obama administration have been.

Motoko Rich puts flesh on the numbers in the New York Times: “According to the study, to be released Friday by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, just 7 percent of those who lost jobs after the financial crisis have returned to or exceeded their previous financial position and maintained their lifestyles.

“The vast majority say they have diminished lifestyles, and about 15 percent say the reduction in their incomes has been drastic and will probably be permanent.”

Rich entitles her article: “For Jobless, Little Hope of Restoring Better Days.” It’s not just about getting a new job; it’s about getting your life back. In Obama’s America, with policies that are producing economic stagnation, the chances of your doing that are very, very slim.

How bad is it?

Rich writes: “’The news is strikingly bad,’ said Cliff Zukin, a professor of public policy and political science at Rutgers who compiled the study, which was based on surveys of a random sample of Americans who were unemployed at some point from August 2008 to August 2009. The numbers represent ‘a tremendous impression of dislocation and pain and wasted talent,’ he said.

“More than two years after the recovery officially began, American employers have reinstated less than a quarter of the jobs lost during the downturn, according to Labor Department figures. Of the 13.1 million people still searching for work, more than 42 percent have been unemployed for six months or longer. About 8.9 million more are working part time because they cannot find full-time work.”

Remember when the Obama stimulus was supposed to put people to work on shovel ready projects.

It turns out that of the 2,000,000 construction jobs that were lost, only 47,000 have returned.

Manufacturing lost 2,300,000 jobs. Slightly more than 10% have returned.

Perhaps it started out as a recession, but today the signs are pointing to a generalized despair, the kind that spells depression.

Obama will blame it on the Bush administration and spin poor results into hopeful signs. It would be unfortunate if the American people get fooled again.


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